A Reel View: Batman Begins
A Reel View
As far as superheroes go, no one is more mysterious than Batman. Whether as the Caped Crusader or as his alter ego Bruce Wayne, his whole life seems to be a secret. Perhaps this is why he is so interesting. In "Batman Begins," the fifth installment of the series, director Christopher Nolan explores the origins of this iconic figure, revealing the deepest depths to the Dark Knight's soul.
The film begins with Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) living the life of an inmate in an Asian prison camp as a method to understand how people become evil. When he was younger, his parents were murdered in front of his eyes by a street thug. Bruce still blames himself for their deaths.
While at the camp, he is visited by Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), who promptly declares himself Bruce's mentor. Henri gets Bruce out of the camp and teaches him how to swordfight. Soon, Henri tells him that he is ready to join the League of Shadows, a lethal group of ninjas headed by cult leader Ra's Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe). Bruce wants no part of this, much to the displeasure of the League. They attack him, but his training allows for him to successfully fight back.
Bruce returns to his mansion in Gotham City, operated by his loyal servant Alfred (Michael Caine) after Bruce's exile. Bruce learns that, while he was away, numerous evils have taken over his hometown. His father's company, Wayne Corp., is now being run by a corporate madman (Rutger Hauer). The city is also a slave to mob boss Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson). It seems that everyone in Gotham has been corrupted by the forces of immorality. Only a select few remain honest, including police Lt. James Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Bruce's childhood friend Rachel (Katie Holmes), who is now Gotham's assistant D.A.
Bruce decides to take matters into his own hands. With the help of genius scientist Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), who has been locked away in the basement of Wayne Corp., Bruce creates a new persona: Batman, named after his childhood fear of bats. Lucius designs the immortal suit, as well as numerous gadgets and a prototype for what will soon be known as the Batmobile. In the meantime, Bruce discovers a cave underneath his mansion, transforming it into his new office. Bruce is soon put to the test when psychotic analyst Dr. Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy) reinvents himself as "the Scarecrow" and forms a plot to (what else?) terrorize Gotham.
Despite being a "Batman" film, it seems to be more about Bruce Wayne than his superhero counterpart. As the mysterious playboy, Christian Bale is perfect. As Batman, he is clumsy and undisciplined, much like Bruce would be. Nevertheless, the part will always belong to Michael Keaton of Tim Burton's "Batman" films.
While the film is less stylized than Burton's, it stays truer to the original comic. It is the darkest of all the Batman films, a characteristic that original creator Bob Kane would be highly impressed by. The film injects a breath of life into the franchise and, as always, leaves room for a sequel.
"Batman Begins" will be released on video and DVD on October 18.
James M. Gullard is a film student at Towson University. Email him your movie thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org